Missouri House Passes Pro-Life Bill to Ban Abortions After 20 Weeks

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Apr 4, 2018   |   11:37AM   |   Jefferson City, MO

A Missouri bill to protect pain-capable unborn babies from abortion passed the state House on Tuesday with strong support.

The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (H.B. 1266) would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks except when there is a risk to the mother’s life or the loss of a major bodily function. It now moves to the state Senate for consideration.

Missourinet reports the bill passed in a 117-31 vote Tuesday with bipartisan support.

The legislation is based on strong scientific evidence that unborn babies can feel excruciating pain by 20 weeks of pregnancy. With new advances in modern medicine, viability also is becoming closer to 20 weeks. According to the journal Pediatrics, the youngest premature baby known to survive was born 21 weeks and four days after conception.

Here’s more from the AP:

Republican backers in the House argued the Missouri bill would stop most abortions after the time in which they say the fetuses can feel pain, while Democratic opponents said women should have the choice to get abortions, especially if their fetuses develop extreme abnormalities.

Republican Rep. Chrissy Sommer, of St. Charles, said when she was pregnant a doctor told her that her son was not developing properly and that she could choose to have an abortion. Sommer said she continued with the pregnancy and later learned the physician mistakenly gave her another woman’s medical results.

“I could have literally terminated my son, who is now 20 and beautiful,” she said, adding that she hopes other women “choose life.”

Abortion activists with NARAL and Planned Parenthood have been lobbying against the bill, claiming it is unconstitutional. According to Missourinet, they also made eugenic arguments for late-term abortions, saying “if there’s an issue with the development of the fetus, it is more humane to allow it to be aborted painlessly instead of being born into a short life of pain.”

However, there is strong scientific evidence that unborn babies feel excruciating pain when they are aborted.

State Rep. Donna Lichtenegger, who is sponsoring the bill, said the state must protect nearly fully formed unborn babies who are capable of feeling pain.

“If a nervous system is fully functional, it feels pain, so that’s why we are wanting to not have an abortion after 20 weeks,” Lichtenegger said during a committee hearing in January.

Many researchers point to evidence that unborn babies can feel pain by 20 weeks, if not earlier. Researchers have fully established fetal pain at 20 weeks, though some say unborn babies may be capable of feeling pain as early as 8 weeks.

Dr. Steven Zielinski, an internal medicine physician from Oregon, is one of the leading researchers into it. He first published reports in the 1980s to validate research showing evidence for unborn pain.

At 20 weeks, the unborn child has all the parts in place – the pain receptors, spinal cord, nerve tracts and thalamus – needed for transmitting and feeling pain. The unborn child responds to touch as early as week 6; and by week 18, pain receptors have appeared throughout the child’s body.

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Dr. Colleen A. Malloy, a professor of neonatology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, told a U.S. Senate committee in 2016 that “anesthesiologists, and surgeons use pain medication” for unborn babies at the 20-week stage when performing surgery, “because it’s supported by the literature completely.”

“I could never imagine subjecting my tiny patients to a horrific procedure such as those that involve limb detachment or cardiac injection,” Malloy added.

Almost 20 states already have 20-week abortion bans in place. These laws are saving thousands of babies from painful, later-term abortions. There were at least 5,770 late-term abortions at or after 21 weeks of pregnancy in 2013 in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control. Another approximate 8,150 abortions took place between 18 weeks and 20 weeks, the CDC reports.